Creating the Applied Wisdom for the Nonprofit Sector Online Course

I’ve asked Leslie Hansen, who was instrumental in creating the new online Applied Wisdom for the Nonprofit Sector Online Course, to share with my readers the story of how the course was born.

Last year, the Applied Wisdom team surveyed some of the recipients of the more than 30,000 copies of Applied Wisdom for the Nonprofit Sector that have been distributed. More than half of the respondents asked for additional training on the eight principles in the booklet.

“Sure, that’s easy” we thought. We’ll just record ourselves leading live workshops, post them on our website with companion exercises, and Shazam! Online course!

Boy, were we wrong!

The generous people at the Miller Center for Entrepreneurship explained to us that impact leaders have little or no time for leadership development, and so anything we offered must be in very short snippets. And we also reasoned that this generation of nonprofit leaders is not interested in hearing from a 60-year-old white lady (me). As excited as I am about the content, I couldn’t be the one to deliver it.

Well now what?

Step one was to pare down the content into 5-minute video scripts. Step two was to find someone who could deliver the scripts well. We played around with AI-generated avatars and were thoroughly creeped out. We were stuck.

Meanwhile, we were learning that the real value in a course comes from hearing stories and examples from others. Jumping from lessons directly to exercises misses the critical step of hearing how others are working with the insights.

Three very different nonprofit leaders, Gabriela Chavez-Lopez, Michael Elliott, and Ahmad Thomas, generously agreed to be interviewed and give examples of how they used the principles within their organizations. Each offered insights that both reinforce and go beyond the Applied Wisdom principles, and the richness of their responses adds a deeper dimension to the course.

We were introduced to the video production company Lincoln Street Studios. They had the skills and technology to do high-quality video recording remotely. They recorded all the interviews, and they also auditioned and engaged a great actor, Nikki Soo Hoo, who delivered the course content and made it her own.

And so, the course was born.

The finished product is a vast improvement over what we had initially envisioned. Its short, professional videos, candid examples from nonprofit leaders, and companion exercises, all emerged from the wisdom of our community. We hope you enjoy it, learn from it, and share it with your colleagues, friends, and family.